Council backs County Road 1 interchange
Roberts upset with decision to take discussion behind closed doors
A Leavenworth County interchange on the Kansas Turnpike was a hot topic at Monday's Tonganoxie City Council meeting.
Because the Leavenworth County Commission is scheduled to discuss the interchange at 10 a.m. today, county commissioner Dean Oroke talked Monday with council members.
Oroke said the exact site for the interchange hasn't been decided yet, saying that County Road 1 is a possibility, as is a site south of Reno or even one closer to Kansas Highway 32.
Monday afternoon, attorney Ralph E. Lewis II, on behalf of the Tailgate Ranch Corporation and owner Elizabeth McKie, sent City Administrator Mike Yanez a letter supporting the County Road 1 interchange. Tailgate Ranch has substantial property along County Road 1. The letter also stated that the company would petition to have its land voluntarily annexed into the city.
At one point during the discussion, council member Steve Gumm walked over to City Administrator Mike Yanez and asked whether the council could go into executive session to discuss land acquisition. No action was taken during the private session, but council member Velda Roberts opted not to attend the meeting, which Oroke also attended.
Gumm said Tuesday that he asked for executive session because Tailgate Ranch came up in discussion during the regular meeting. Executive session can be used to discuss items such as non-elected personnel, lawyer-client privilege and land acquisition. However, it is not required that those discussions be held in private.
On Tuesday, Roberts said she didn't feel comfortable participating in the executive session.
"Nothing in ... what had been discussed led me to believe that there was a question of real estate," she said.
Roberts said she is sensitive to the state's open meetings law and was comfortable with her decision to stay out of the meeting.
"No one was right and no one was wrong," Roberts said. "I'm perfectly happy with the fact I stayed where I was."
Before the meeting, Yanez had prepared a resolution supporting County Road 1 as Tonganoxie's choice for a link to U.S. 24-40.
When the council returned from executive session, council member Jason Ward suggested the council hold off on choosing which interchange it preferred because it didn't have all the "financial facts" yet.
Take a stand
Yanez, though, said the council needed to make a decision with the county commission holding its meeting today.
"I would hate to be asleep at the wheel," Yanez said. "That would be my concern, of having to wait too long."
Oroke said the Reno interchange might be more cost-effective in the long run than the other two sites.
Ward questioned that route.
"What is in Reno that is going to help Tonganoxie?" Ward asked.
Oroke stated his case for the Reno option, saying the land there could benefit the city just as the McKie property could along County Road 1.
Eventually, the council approved the resolution, throwing its support behind the County Road 1 interchange.
"It may not be the cheapest road, but it's the right road and this is what this resolution says," Yanez said.
The council voted 4-0 to pass the resolution, with Jim Truesdell abstaining. Truesdell cited a conflict of interest because he works for HNTB, an engineering firm that is working with the Kansas Turnpike Authority and Leavenworth County on feasibility studies for the potential interchange.
The KTA and HNTB officials will attend today's meeting at the Leavenworth County Courthouse, 300 Walnut, in Leavenworth.
The Tonganoxie City Council also requested a special meeting so two or more members plan to attend the meeting.